A local attorney promises to represent violators for free.
By STEPHEN SIFF
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
HOWLAND -- A barking dog can now take a bite out of its owner's wallet.
After a boisterous, nearly two-hour meeting, township trustees approved a resolution that will permit police to cite people whose pets disturb neighbors.
The resolution permits fines to be levied when a dog barks for more than 10 consecutive minutes during the day, or more than five minutes between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m., at a volume loud enough to be bothersome to the next property over.
The cost: $50 for the first offense, $100 each time thereafter.
"It is intended to allow people to enjoy peace and tranquility in their own homes," said Law Director James Saker, who designed the resolution.
The resolution, the first to make use of Howland's new home-rule powers, also forbids keeping dogs in a manner that allows noxious odors to waft onto neighboring properties and requires people to pick up their dogs' droppings in parks or on others' lawns.
It was the anti-barking provisions, however, that drew the loudest howls.
"It is unreasonable, unneeded and arbitrary," said Atty. John A. Leopardi, a Howland resident and president of Trumbull County Humane Society. "Our dogs are like our children and when they interfere with our dogs they interfere with us."
Defense offer: Leopardi said he will defend for free anyone cited under the resolution.
"There is only so far you can infringe with the rights of your neighbors," Leopardi said. "Kids make noise too."
The humane society sent letters encouraging members in Howland Township to attend the trustee meeting and speak out against the resolution.
About 50 people showed up, with as many supporting the resolution as opposing it.
Several complained about a North Road residence, where seven dogs are kept penned.
"I have a dog and I love my animal," said Don Stark of Allyson Road, whose bedroom is on the side of the house toward North Road, "but I should not have to sleep on my couch because this guy wants to have a petting zoo in his back yard."
Officials said police would not be out prowling for barking dogs.
"We had people who were coming to us with extreme cases and we had no tool to help them," said Trustee Richard Clark.
The township's previous anti-barking resolution was knocked down about a year ago by the 11th District Court of Appeals in Warren because the standard of what constituted an offense was vague.
Barking dog laws are in place in Lordstown, Warren, Boardman and Niles, officials said.